If you’ve ever needed a convincing reason to commit to some healthy food swaps, take note: Experts say weight loss is 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise.1 A good fitness routine will always be essential for overall health and wellness, but coupling it with a consistently cleaner diet may help to:
- Support your heart health.2
- Control your calories and make sure you’re getting quality nutrition.
- Reduce the amount of hidden sugar you eat.
- Support your energy levels and mental focus.3
There’s no need to commit to an extreme diet to achieve these benefits — you can start by making small changes to your eating habits and working to provide your body with the nutritious calories it needs.4
Healthy food starts in your kitchen. So, make sure you’re stocked up with all the good stuff and limit your consumption of foods that don’t really give you much nutrition-wise (especially those that contain lots of sugar).
It can be overwhelming to overhaul your diet, but you can start simply. Learn about healthy food swaps you can make to your existing diet. Good news: You might not have to give up your favorite savory sides or ice cream treats, after all.
Dairy: Healthy Food Swaps For Sour Cream, Yogurt, And Milk
Sour cream can be a pantry staple for many people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t swap it out for something a little more nutritionally beneficial: Greek yogurt. You get the same tangy taste like sour cream but with gut-boosting probiotics and fewer calories.5
Greek yogurt can also replace your usual store-bought (read: sugar-laden) flavored yogurts for breakfasts and snacks. It’s extra tasty dolloped on muesli and fresh fruit, or even in pancakes.
Dairy milk is notorious for being tough on the tummy for those sensitive to it. Now the trend has turned to plant-based milk. Low-fat milk alternatives include soy, almond, coconut, oat, and even cashew and hemp milk. Not only do these milk alternatives often contain fewer calories and saturated fat, but they’re also enriched with essential protein and vitamins.6
Starch: Try These Healthy Food Swaps For Your Usual Potatoes And Rice
Who could ever give up good old mashed potatoes and french fries? These starchy sides are a dinner-table fave, but you could be making them healthier and less calorie-laden to help you along your weight loss journey.
Some healthy food swaps for mashed potatoes include mashed cauliflower (more vitamin C), mashed parsnips (better source of fiber), and mashed turnips (more essential vitamins and minerals compared to regular potatoes). All of these alternatives are low-carb compared to potatoes, and they also have fewer calories.7
You can also try subbing in squash, carrots, or sweet potatoes instead. In addition to being naturally sweet, these healthy foods contain more fiber and healthy vitamins and minerals.8
As for your usual white rice, you can go further than the usual brown rice varieties and try your hand at preparing quinoa, farro, barley (and other so-called “ancient grains”) which contain much more fiber and fewer calories.9 You can also use riced cauliflower for fewer calories, great taste, and similar texture.
Fat: Options For Cooking Oils And Spreads
Olive oil should be a pantry staple if you’re looking for cooking oil with healthy fats. While it is about 14 percent saturated fat, research shows the predominantly monounsaturated fats found in olive oil can be beneficial to heart health.10
As tasty as olive oil can be for both frying, marinating, and even making salad dressing, there’s not much it can do in the savory spread department. Peanut butter is a childhood classic, but the rise in peanut allergies makes it pantry persona non grata for some.
While peanut butter isn’t “junk” per se, there are healthier food swaps for this spread and baking ingredients that make the calories worth it. Try other nut butters like almond, coconut, and macadamia, which all contain marginally more beneficial omega-3s. They may also contain less added sugar and fewer calories.11
You can also sub seed butters in for peanut butter. Cash in on the cashew butter and sunflower butter trend and reap the benefits of enriching your usual bread spread with essential vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc, and vitamin E.12
Nut and seed butters can be versatile as a baking ingredient (think cookies and cheesecake with less sugar overall) and even as a flavoring for your homemade ice cream.
Sugar: Get Your Sweet Fix With Dark Chocolate And Fresh Fruit
Chocolate can be healthy, as long as you know what kind to consume. Dark chocolate contains fewer calories than the usual milk variety, as well as a more concentrated chocolate flavor undiluted by added sugar and dairy. The purported health benefits of chocolate are also preserved since it’s largely unprocessed compared to sweeter milk chocolate bars. Consider switching to 72% (or higher) dark chocolate for baking (and snacking) instead.13
You can also rely on fresh fruit in season or those frozen at the peak of their freshness to get a sweet fix. These will be naturally sweeter without any added sugar or concentrates. Make your own fruit juice, smoothies, popsicles, and even dried fruit using the best produce you can procure.14
Add non-dairy milk to fruit puree, and you can make some tasty homemade ice cream. You can also roast fresh fruit to make the natural sugars caramelize, and use that for granola breakfast bowls or trail mix.
Start Small With A Pantry Clean Up
These healthy food swaps can start you off on your weight loss journey. By simply going through your pantry and refrigerator, and overhauling your grocery list, you may find yourself eating cleaner and more healthfully. And that can spell the difference in terms of how many pounds you shed and inches you lose.
No need to feel deprived, either. These alternatives might be lower in calories and contain less sugar, but they can be just as tasty. Get creative in the kitchen with these healthy food swaps, and you’ll likely feel all the better for it.